Sunday, May 04, 2014

Supreme Court to Decide Cellphone Privacy

Due to the extensive use and ownership of cellphones, the Supreme Court is to decide if cellphones deserve special protection from searches by the police.  Two cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court involve a Massachusetts drug dealer and the other a California gang member who want the Court to rule that a search of their cellphones violates their right to privacy.  The search was conducted without a warrant and after the arrest of the individuals. 

In the Massachusetts case, police arrested the defendant in a South Boston parking lot in 2007 for allegedly selling crack cocaine from his car. Through a subsequent search of his cellphone log, police located his residence, where they found other evidence used to convict him of drug and gun crimes.

Under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, police generally need a warrant before they can conduct a search.  The warrant itself must be based on "probable cause" evidence that a crime has been committed.  In the 1970s, exceptions were implemented for officers dealing with arrestee's which allowed police to look for concealed weapons and prevent the destruction of evidence.  

Librarians, the new media, defense lawyers as well as civil liberties groups are trying to convince the justices that they should take a broad view of the privacy issues raised when police have unimpeded access to digital technology. The American Civil Liberties Union urged the court to consider a cellphone search to that of a police intrusion into a home.  "Cellphones and other portable electronic devices are, in effect, our new homes" the ACLU said in a court filing. 


Source: Associated Press